The Best of Rainbow Music by “Clearlight” (Cyrille Verdeaux) Clearlight Music, 1999 http://www.clearlight888music.com The Frenchman Cyrille Verdeaux has been around the European pop scene for quite a while, as this “best of “ compilation of his six albums proves. He’s contemporary with Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre, Jean-Luc Ponty, “Deep Forest,” and Tangerine Dream – the giants of Euro-pop. Then why is he so little known in the United States, while those others make huge hits here? The answer is in the music. In Verdeaux’s work you will hear imitations of every one of the Euro-artists I’ve mentioned just above, but nothing to match their innovation, their unforgettable melodies, or their dramatic pacing and timing. Verdeaux is a good keyboardist, and he can certainly deliver large, fast volumes of notes, and all his accompanying players are competent as well, but his music sort of chugs along in a cheerful but bland way. He trots out the African pygmy song samples like “Deep Forest,” (won’t these Euros ever let those poor tribesmen alone?) and in other tracks he will lay out a kind of overwrought “romantic piano concerto” type of sound. In yet another he will do the synthesizer-rock thing, and in another, a “world” pseudo-ethnic sound, as if he had been commissioned to create something in each style; it all sounds rather businesslike. He’s at his best when he does a mix of jazz and pentatonic “new age” impressionist-style harmonies, such as in “Bon Sens” or “Agadir.” His rather humorous, “dub” –styling “Keep Up Berlin” (which I have heard in a commercial somewhere) also is fun to listen to, at least for a while. The first cut in the album, the smooth-jazz “Spirale d’Amour” is enjoyable, except for the addition of heavy erotic female breathing sounds at the end (anyone remember that 80’s disco gem “Ooooo, Love to Love you Baby?”). Like many other New Age artists, Verdeaux has the annoying habit of telling us in his liner notes not only what “color” the music is, but what part of our “aura” each piece connects with and what pseudo-scientific “healing powers” these sounds are supposed to have. A sample sentence from the album notes reads: “It is music to unblock cellular awakening, repatterning the DNA to achieve the highest potential.” I may enjoy the music, but I don’t think I want my DNA patterns rearranged. HMGS rating out of 10: 5 6/21/00
Tribal Hybrid Concept by Cyrille Verdeaux and Pascal Menestryl Clearlight 888 Music, 1999 http://www.clearlight888music.com This French production includes a lot of high-flown text in its packaging, attempting to link its music to the Yogic “chakra system” of the “energy body.” It also claims that its use of samples of world music, chanting, and jungle sounds are well-meaning reminders to listeners that these cultures and environments are endangered. Yet for me, all this is just posturing. The music on this album does not rise above the pop techno music that one hears in dance clubs or in hip fashion shops. The two musicians here have taken, or perhaps ripped is a better word, samples from what they say are “original recordings of sacred ceremonies and rituals.” And they have mixed them with harsh synthesizer sounds, pop riffs, and fast trance-dance beats, creating something which is slick, superficial, and ultimately, exploitative. If I were a Tibetan monk or a Sufi or an aboriginal shaman, I might be a bit upset if I knew that my sacred songs, part of my own religious devotion and my culture’s ancient heritage, were being used to entertain jaded, addicted Euro-youth. But these Native folk probably don’t know it – as the text says ominously, “…most of the beings heard on this album are probably already dead.” That’s convenient. Meanwhile the producers cover it by pretentious babble about “energizing and harmonizing quality, coming from its use of sacred sounds embodying the spirit of ancient peoples.” We were treated to a similar situation some years ago with the Belgian production of “Deep Forest,” making big money and hot hits out of the remote and vulnerable Pygmy people. At least the “Deep Forest” people said they were donating part of their profits to a fund helping the Pygmies save their songs, culture, and environment. I’m all for globalization and the appropriate use of “world music,” but this album by Verdeaux and Menestryl proves to me that colonialism is not dead, it’s just changed its tactics. HMGS rating: 2 Hannah M.G.Shapero 4/7/00
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